Biasi bests Milto in pitching duel, 3-0

Indiana’s Pauly Milto was good, but Penn State’s Dante Biasi was better.

Another fine Friday start for the Hoosier right-hander went to waste.

This time, IU couldn’t solve one of the Big Ten’s best pitchers in a 3-0 loss to the Lions before an announced crowd of 1,784 at Bart Kaufman Field.

Biasi, who entered Friday’s series opener with a league-leading 57 strikeouts in 40 innings, rendered Indiana’s lineup punchless over his 6 1/3 innings on the hill. The left-hander struck out nine, walked only one and yielded merely two hits, sending the Hoosiers to their second straight loss, as well as their second straight series-opening defeat.

“They pitched terrificly-well,” IU coach Jeff Mercer said. “I was happy with our intent, our effort, our commitment to attack a plan. We just weren’t able to execute it as well as we would’ve liked to.”

The series continues with a 2:05 first pitch on Saturday afternoon.

There was no shame in Milto’s effort against the Lions (16-9, 1-5). The senior struck out eight in six innings, scattering six hits, walking two and allowing only one run. But the night ended as another tough-luck outing for Milto, who was coming off a similarly strong, yet unfulfilling start in last Friday’s 2-0 loss at Maryland.

Across his past two starts, Milto has yielded only three runs, while striking out 16 in a 12 1/3 inning span.

Milto has done his part. The Hoosiers (17-12, 5-2), however, just haven’t been able to support their top pitcher with the results he’s deserved.

“He pitched his butt off tonight,” Mercer said. “I told him in (the clubhouse), ‘It’s tough, man.’ But I’ll tell you what, when you take the Friday night title, you’re gonna go out and get the best shot from another club. That’s what comes with the territory. It’s gonna be a low-scoring game. It’s gonna be back and forth, and that’s why you put out your best guy — your toughest guy — and Pauly is that for us. He was really good and did a great job. They just executed and got it done.”

Milto made quick work of the Lions early, requiring only 20 pitches to retire Penn State in order over the first two innings. But the Lions struck in the third, when Penn State football receiver-turned-baseball outfielder Mac Hippenhammer singled, went first to third on a single by Conlin Hughes, then scored the game’s first run on a double by Gavin Homer.

It turned out to be the only run the Lions would need, as Biasi matched Milto on the other side and propelled Penn State to its first conference win.

A former 22nd round pick by the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 MLB Draft, Biasi is quickly earning a reputation as one of the Big Ten’s toughest arms. With an edge-of-your-seat dancing fastball, the sophomore southpaw has held opponents to one earned run or less in seven of his eight starts this season.

IU didn’t have a after the second inning, and finished the night with only five base runners. None of them advanced past second base.

“The truth of it is, and I told our guys this, he’s the first true high-(movement) fastball guy that we’ve faced all year,” Mercer said. “I wasn’t upset with the way we attacked him. We had a great plan going in.

“We really did try to attack that plan with a heavily-left-handed lineup, and the right-handed guys that we have, their swings are not built for that. You have to be precise in how you attack that guy and pull him down in the zone. We tried, but the ball just rides up. It looks like it’s at your belt, and it rides to your letters.”

The Lions did the rest of their damage against the Indiana bullpen, including Hughes’ solo home run off IU’s Gabe Bierman in the top of the seventh.

Penn State added insurance against Cal Krueger in the ninth, putting runners on the corners with two outs. An infield hit up the middle by Jordan Bowersox drove in Hippenhammer for the Lions’ third and final run.

Now, Indiana will hope the rest of its weekend plays out in similar fashion to last week’s trip to Maryland.

There, the Hoosiers found themselves on the wrong end of a pitcher’s duel last Friday in College Park before bouncing back and outscoring the Terrapins 39-9 over the final two games to win the series.

“We work so much on being resilient, being tough and being able to bounce back and respond,” Mercer said. “… I’m confident we’ll come out and do that tomorrow.”